Tuesday 26 December 2023

Micro-interview with L.E. Badillo

Welcome, L.E. Badillo, artist of “Crumb Cutie Exodus” in The Future Fire #67, for one of the last micro-interviews of 2023!

Art © 2023, L.E. Badillo

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Crumb Cutie Exodus”?

L.E. Badillo: “Crumb Cutie Exodus” was a lot of fun to work with. Bernie Jean Schiebeling provided some really great visuals for this. There were a few ideas I didn't have enough time to explore but went with the ones I felt strongest about. Trying to capture the moment when the ’Cuties escaped from the ship was key as well as the feeling of dread with the bonfire before the realization that they were in fact alive.    
TFF: What is the most terrifying thing about the sea?

LEB: There is so much about the sea that is awesome and terrifying. It's one thing to swim in a pool and another to find yourself unable to touch ground or see below you. With the discoveries of long thought extinct sea creatures happening with some regularity, it's not hard to let your imagination get the better of you. I prefer showers to baths thank you very much.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

LEB: I'm currently pouring my energies into working as a storyboard artist. This is a really fun field to work in and not far from illustrating for stories since you work from scripts. You can see my latest work at https://www.elbad.net/boards.html.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Micro-interview with Elena S. Kotsile

We invited Elena S. Kotsile, author of “How to plant an olive tree on the Moon when all is lost” in The Future Fire #67, over for a brief chat about trees, planets and poetry.

Art © 2023 Fluffgar

TFF: What does “How to plant an olive tree on the Moon when all is lost” mean to you?

Elena S. Kotsile: “How to plant an olive tree on the Moon when all is lost” is a poem that first came to me as an image. Olive tree, Olea europaea, is my favorite tree species and always somehow finds its way into my writing. I love how the silver-green leaves shine under the Mediterranean sun, reflecting the summer light like sardines on a sea’s surface. It breaks my heart to think about the decline of olive trees due to climate change.

TFF: If you could create a new planet, what would it look like?

ESK: Earth is perfect exactly because it emerged from organized chaos and randomness. If I could create a new planet, it would be the same blue planet as Earth, with islands instead of continents and several moons that would be bigger and closer to Earth than our moon. Imagine lying on a beach, the cold ocean cooling your feet, and a cloudless sky with two or three colorful moons hanging above your head.

TFF: What are you working on next?

ESK: I’m currently querying for my first speculative novel (dark urban fantasy) and working on a second novel and some short stories. Whatever I do, though, I always keep going with my poetry, either SFF or autobiographical.


Bring soil from Earth, regardless how spoiled—
Lunar soil might not be polluted,
but it is full of silicon.
Do not use fertilizer.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Micro-interview with Juliet Kemp

Very pleased to invite Juliet Kemp, author of “Just as You Are” in The Future Fire #67, over for a wee chat.

TFF: What does “Just as You Are” mean to you?

Juliet Kemp: I was thinking about parenting and acceptance when I wrote it. Beyond that I'm not sure I can say it better than I said it in the story…    

TFF: Given what we know about the failings of even the most advanced AI today, how long do you think it will be before we create anything that could be considered alive?

JK: I think this depends on how we define ‘alive’ which is of course hugely complex. Our current definitions revolve around a form of organic bodily life which doesn't necessarily carry over to other potential forms of life. I think something mechanical that can perform appropriate functions to grow, maintain, and reproduce itself, and respond to external stimuli, might not be that far off. Something that's ‘conscious’ or ‘intelligent’ or similar is a more complicated question—and far harder to judge, especially given the human tendency to try to define humans as ‘special’ and therefore exclude other beings (such as ones we already share the planet with) from intelligence or consciousness.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful or fun speculative fiction (in any medium)?

JK: I really enjoyed Ruthanna Emrys’s A Half-Built Garden—I found it complicated but hopeful and fascinating. (I have many other favourites too!)


Jin’s wearing the expression which means they’re desperate to look at my code fork, though it’s probably not conscious. Jin’s lab is the preeminent AI research lab; all those half-dozen person-level AIs are in some way based on the code that we developed here. After the court case that gave the first, Aisha, human rights, we open-sourced the main code branch, figuring it was the only ethical decision. Aisha took control of her own code fork, and the cluster she runs on.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Micro-interview with Beth Cato

We welcome Beth Cato, author of the poem “How magic will help you take the bastards down” in The Future Fire #67 for a short conversation.

Art © 2023 Melkorka
TFF: What does “How magic will help you take the bastards down” mean to you?

Beth Cato: For me, it's a poem about anger and wit. Even if magic were to exist, its use is not an end-all. There will still be injustice. You fight back however you can.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful or fun speculative fiction (in any medium)?

BC: I love Becky Chambers' works, both her Wayfarers series and her Monk and Robot books. They are not for everyone, as they are not big on action or plot, but she has a graceful way of depicting humanity even in beings that are not human.

TFF: What are you working on next?

BC: I'm gearing up for the January release of my next book, A Feast for Starving Stone. It finishes up my duology that began with A Thousand Recipes for Revenge. These books are packed with magical food and swashbuckling action. I don't recommend that people read them while they are hungry.

start the hot water kettle
with a glare fueled
by the infuriating recollection
of how your boss said
‘oh don’t worry, we’ll investigate’

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Micro-interview with Katharine A. Viola

Katharine A. Viola, artist of “Woman, Soldier, Girl” in The Future Fire #67, joins us for a quick chat about illustrating, family history and dreams.

Art © 2023, Katharine A. Viola

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Woman, Soldier, Girl”?

Katharine A. Viola: I loved the machine aspect of this story.  The author painted such a vivid portrayal, not only in describing what the machines looked like, but the importance of these machines to the character(s) in the story.  I felt it necessary to create these visuals to enhance the cultural aspects of the tale.

TFF: Is there one of your ancestors that you would particularly like to meet? What would you ask them?

KV: As it happens to be, I am a descendant of John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. I would have a million questions to ask, but mostly would pick his brain about the time period and the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

TFF: Have you ever tried to paint or write one of your own dreams?

KV: Yes! Yet it is so hard to capture the images as they are often fleeting. Dreams can tell us so much, and sometimes the visuals can be extremely inspiring.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Thursday 7 December 2023

Micro-interview with Vanessa Fogg

Welcome, Vanessa Fogg, author of “Microseasons of the Dead” in The Future Fire #67 (and many previous stories), to the micro-interview series, where today we focus a lot on seasons…

Art © 2023, Cécile Matthey

TFF: What does “Microseasons of the Dead” mean to you?

Vanessa Fogg: For me, “Microseasons of the Dead” is about using a calendar year format to work out some existential thoughts on life and death. It was inspired by the microseasons of the traditional Japanese calendar, which consist of 72 “microseasons” with beautiful names such as “East Melts the Ice” and “Evening Cicadas Sing” (translations taken from this article).


TFF: What is your favorite day or season of the year?

VF: Autumn, hands down. As Keats put it, Oh “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”! I love everything about fall: the mists, the rain, the brilliant colors, the clear light of fall. Cozy sweaters, fuzzy pajamas, soups and stews, everything pumpkin spice. If I could live in just one season, it would be fall.


Crack and splinter of heavy ice. Cold sunk deep in your bones. (How is it that you can still feel your bones?) A mountain of snow. White sky.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Micro-interview with Jonathan Olfert

Jonathan Olfert, author of “Collective Bargaining” in The Future Fire #67, came by for a short chat about the story, equity, AI and the future of education.

Art © 2023, Carmen Moran
TFF: What does “Collective Bargaining” mean to you?

Jonathan Olfert: It's just a little story about how underresourced one-size-fits-all accommodations can be useless or worse. I first thought of it during the emergency remote delivery/remote proctoring debacle, at the same time as massive government cuts were forcing support staff layoffs. I came back to the idea several times during some of my own struggles with disability. I wondered what accommodations a hive mind would need, or would be forced to need by a system designed for boring old one-bodies like us.

TFF: Is gen-AI going to make examining fairly and equitably harder or easier?

JO: Anyone who says they can reliably and consistently tell the difference between mildly edited gen-AI and a second-year undergrad's authentic paper (or online quiz response, or cover letter, or scholarship application) is dreaming. So a student's uncertainty about a fair assessment is only going to rise, and uncertainty comes with unevenly distributed hazards. Just as one example, I think of many international students I've known who've learned an extra-formal style that can have that gen-AI 'feel.'  And since instructors often have the academic freedom to decide standards for gen-AI use in their classes, students may be juggling five different risk profiles a semester whether they've even used gen-AI or not. On a side note, want to hear something unsettling? I ran a survey on textbooks a couple of months ago at work, and out of almost 1100 undergrads, 4%—over forty of them—had explicitly used ChatGPT instead of buying a textbook. Which doesn't just speak to the quality of the information they and other gen-AI users are receiving, it can inform their writing style, so they may join the ranks of people more likely to get flagged even if they write all their own papers from scratch.


Jane swarmed up the chair legs and settled into a rustling cluster. “All I want to do is write the exam,” they said through many tiny voices.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Micro-interview with Melkorka

We had a bit of a chat with Melkorka, artist of “How magic will help you take the bastards down” in The Future Fire #67.

The Future Fire: How did you go about illustrating “How magic will help you take the bastards down”?

Melkorka: This piece deeply resonated on a personal level, so my illustration incorporated elements such as the Tarot and ritual that are also personally meaningful in the hope that they would convey my deep and authentic sense of solidarity with the narrator.

TFF: What spell would you like to be able to cast?

M: An invisibility spell. It would be an invaluable tool for an introvert!

TFF: Do you have a lucky charm?

M: Yes, a crescent moon pendant that I always have to have with me.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

A Tribute to Joel Lane 1963-2013

Guest post by Rachel Verkade

If you dig through the refuse and litter of the old internet, you may come upon the ruins of old message boards. Scattered and context-less, these pages and words drift through the invisible ether of cyberspace, offering little snippets of life in the internet’s heydays.

Among these lost pages is the former message board of prolific, long-lived, and celebrated British author Ramsey Campbell. While perhaps not the most populated corner of the internet, Campbell’s message board became a haven for spec fic readers and writers, young and old, to congregate, share work and plans, discuss stories and novels, and generally make connections regarding the craft. Included in there are some names that dark fiction afficianados will recognise, talking amongst each other and their fans, sharing stories and news, planning meetups. It was a little haven for those who loved and created and consumed weird literature, a dark sanctuary where like-minded people found each other.

Sift through those old pages, and come upon an entry from mid-November 2013. At 7:24 PM, a user posted that Birmingham author Joel Lane had died in his sleep. What followed below was a raw outpouring of grief and shock.

What?! You are sure it is no joke?

This is awful, awful news.

This is a joke, right?

This can’t be true. […] It just can’t be true.

Ah fuck, no.

This is like the most weird experience I’ve ever had. Crying over a man I’ve never met…

Life isn’t fucking fair.

No. […] for me, for now: no.

Thursday 23 November 2023

Micro-interview with Priya Chand

We invited Priya Chand, author of “Woman, Soldier, Girl” in The Future Fire #67, over for a brief chat.

Art # 2023 Katharine A. Viola

The Future Fire: What does “Woman, Soldier, Girl” mean to you?

Priya Chand: I read Madhusree Mukherjee's Churchill's Secret War and basically… processing learning about the Bengal famine, plus my love of the steampunk aesthetic contrasted against the way that, at the time, a lot of it went hand-in-hand with effectively glorifying the imposition of Victorian aesthetics and empire. I'd also read this bit about how it's flattening to exclusively cast the colonized as victims, and the colonizers as all-powerful, because local allies made a lot of difference in how successful colonization ultimately was (there were examples, the only one I remember is La Malinche). So I also wanted to capture some of that nuance, and show some complicity as well.

TFF: What is your favorite progressive SFF movie or TV show?

PC: Does Everything Everywhere, All At Once count?? I feel like it should. That movie was way too damn relatable though, haha. I avoided watching it with my mom because I didn't want to be glared at every time Evelyn was disrespected by her daughter.

TFF: Tell us about one of your favourite underrated artists or authors?

PC: Fargo Tbakhi. I've loved everything of his I've read so far. His written work is both lyrical and sharp.


Decades later, there will be a memorial, and tourists who mostly walk past the memorial—there’s plenty of shopping, the latest fashions and a myriad of clever trinkets in the artisans’ district, where people are still discovering techniques and ideas lost during the war and subsequent occupation. It’s astounding, some say, that their ancestors didn’t do more to preserve these things. The occupation didn’t last that long, after all, and such an illustrious heritage cannot be so easily erased.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Micro-interview with Carmen Moran

Welcome to Carmen Moran, artist of “Collective Bargaining” in The Future Fire #67, and our long-time illustrator and collaborator, to the micro-interview season.

Art © 2023 Carmen Moran

The Future Fire: How did you go about illustrating “Collective Bargaining”?

Carmen Moran: Very slowly. It took me quite a while to work out what I was going for. The image that struck me most from the piece was the fourteen thousand eyes, so I wanted them to be a prominent feature, while also showing the erasure that sets in when someone doesn’t fit the shape of the "standard human".

TFF: You're not a fan of spiders yourself. What small animals do you like, and do you think you can communicate with them?

CM: Well, when I say I'm not a fan, I mean them suddenly appearing in my field of vision freaks me out a little (or a lot, depending on size), but of course I love them as very cool parts of our ecosystem, and in their symbolic role as creators of art and weavers of tales—how could I not? As for communicating with them, there is actually a fleet of cellar spiders in my house that I have a contract with: I leave them alone as long as they don't suddenly drop from the ceiling into my face (which they sometimes do for some reason), and in turn they eat the really scary massive spiders that wander in from the garden. It's working well, for both parties as far as I can tell.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

CM: Mostly random personal projects at the moment. One of them is my random knowledge zine Emmeline (@emmeline.zine on Insta), which I've been publishing with a group of friends since 2003. I only just worked out this week that that was twenty years ago… There were some breaks in the middle, but we resuscitated it in 2019 and it's been going strong since then. It's my longest running project, and I love how it's brought a bunch of people together that wouldn't otherwise be connected, and that it teaches me new things all the time. Most recently it caused me to learn about grasshopper mice (Onychomys). If you've never heard of them, I suggest you look them up.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Thursday 16 November 2023

Microinterview with Bernie Jean Schiebeling

We’re very pleased to have Bernie Jean Schiebeling, author of “Crumb Cutie Exodus” in The Future Fire #67, over for a chat about help, hope, and projects.

Art © 2023 L.E. Badillo

TFF: What does “Crumb Cutie Exodus” mean to you?

Bernie Jean Schiebeling: "Crumb Cutie Exodus" is about the need to take immediate action to help others despite possible consequences. Personally, I sometimes have trouble acting quickly, so writing characters who do is kind of like… practice for future situations.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful or fun speculative fiction (in any medium)?

BJS: "D.I.Y." by John Wiswell and The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson are great hopeful fiction—both have clever and compassionate protagonists who take on powerful institutions that seem immune to change, and they win. I've also been having a wonderful time with I Was a Teenage Exocolonist from Northway Games, where the player character experiences a time loop and attempts to create a better (or at least different) life for themself each playthrough.

TFF: What are you working on next?

BJS: It's a busy transitional time—I've recently finished a contemporary queer Gothic novella, so I'm seeking publication for that and working on a backlog of short story drafts. My partner and I are also starting preproduction on our new spec-fic podcast after wrapping season 2 of our last audio project, Gastronaut.


During the early hours of the Paris morning, someone flings a lilac bear from a high hotel balcony, and she tumbles, tumbles, tumbles through the freezing night air. The shiny gold tag in her ear, a plump star shape, flutters and flickers as it catches the wind. She lands with a soft pash of polyvinyl beans on cobblestones.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/10/new-issue-202367.html.

Monday 30 October 2023

New Issue 2023.67

“To invent stories about a world other than this one has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of slander, belittling, and suspicion against life is strong in us: in that case, we avenge ourselves against life with a phantasmagoria of another, a better life.”

—F. Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung

[ Issue 2023.67; Cover art © 2023 Fluffgar ]

Issue 2023.67

Flash fiction

Short stories


Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Sunday 8 October 2023

Long Dead Venusians by Phil Wilson

Long Dead Venusians: Meditation on Climate Change as a Cosmic Theme

Guest post by Phil Wilson

The night sky has always been both a magnet for curiosity and a projection screen for fantasy. The ancients saw mythical beings in the Rorschach of celestial patterns. Galileo, Copernicus and the church fought battles over the nature of truth in these same heavens. Now, fittingly, in our era of collapsing economies, hypertrophied corporations and climate catastrophe, the cosmos embodies our political anxiety.

Hemispheric View of Venus Centered at South Pole © 1996 NASA

A whimsical piece in The Nation (“Are Aliens Who Visit Earth Likely to Be Socialist?”) features a debate over whether or not alien visitors are likely to be socialists. In “A Statistical Estimation of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Milky Way Galaxy,” Cai et al. reflect on the likelihood that some, most, or all of our techno-savvy brethren, presumably scattered across the galaxy, have fatally befouled their home planets, or violently obliterated themselves before they were able to master interstellar communication or travel. The authors of this study conclude that “Pann” (the probability of self annihilation) is the most significant factor in deriving probability formulae for future interactions with extraterrestrials.

The human impulse to project has tossed Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher into the sky. These political ghouls are now entangled in the streaks of the Milky Way, deregulating the environmental protections of an entire galaxy and freeing ET to frack and strip mine to his heart's content. Are we all alone in a universe in which self destruction is an existential mandate, or are we earnestly expecting a species of interstellar socialists to descend from the heavens bringing a message of salvation?

Octopus © 2020 Diego Delso (BY-CC-SA)
Our own earth-bound stories are the default for extraterrestrial absence: aliens (as we imagine them) may be a bit more clever than ourselves (figuring out light speed travel and wormholes) and we routinely depict them with huge heads and atrophied limbs, resembling our future selves. We could, if we wished, imagine a species of interstellar octopuses. The octopus has, arguably, more magnificent neural structures than our own, enabling the blessed mollusc to instantaneously survey the complexity of the ocean floor and consciously—using themselves in lieu of a canvas—reproduce the colors, contours and shadows of their surroundings. How self-effacing! How brilliant to intuitively divine the techniques of photorealism in three dimensions! Octopuses, in their hundreds of millions of years of success, have proven that gifted creatures are not inevitably destined to channel intellect toward an endgame of self obliteration. No group of octopuses (so far as we know) has ever founded a corporation. Can human beings even imagine superior intelligence untainted by capitalism?

Mitski sang in her famous song, “Nobody”:

Venus, planet of love
Was destroyed by global warming
Did its people want too much too?

Years ago, in elementary school, I read a book about the planets that showed a fanciful picture of the surface of Venus—a lush world full of Dr. Seuss-like creatures and exotic plants. This was long before Soviet space probes determined that, beneath Venusian clouds, the planetary surface does not at all resemble a tropical lagoon, but rather imitates a pizza oven. The temperatures on Venus run as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to a greenhouse effect on steroids. The atmosphere is 97% CO2, clouds of sulfuric acid obscure our view of the basalt paved surface and the atmospheric pressure would transform a range rover into a crushed hunk of melting metal.

And yet NASA climate modeling suggests that cool oceans may once have been a Venusian feature. Is Venus the ultimate victim of biblical rebuke? We earthlings know all about sin and the brutal forces of retribution. Has Venus, the wayward and ruined sister of our lovely blue marble, suffered the full ferocity of fire and brimstone? Jonathan Edwards, the 17th century New England preacher who made hellfire into a personal fetish, might as well have been describing Venus to his quivering congregants. In our florid, contemporary imaginations, we do not envision Venusian sin as a matter of skimping on interplanetary Jesus so much as we picture a Venusian society that capitulated to the menace of capitalism. But Jonathan Edwards was partly right. Sin and fire have a mutual plan.

Mitski's theory of Venusian demise has respectable, scientific support—at least speculatively. Jason T. Wright, professor of astrophysics at the University of Pennsylvania, writes in “Prior Indigenous Technological Species”:

In this paper, I discuss the possibility for such prior indigenous technological species; by this I mean species that are indigenous to the Solar System, produce technosignatures and/or were spacefaring, and are currently extinct or otherwise absent. The question of why this species is not extant in the Solar System is not relevant to much of my discussion, but needs to be addressed at least well enough to establish plausibility for the hypothesis. The most obvious answer is a cataclysm, whether a natural event, such as an extinction-level asteroid impact, or self-inflicted, such as a global climate catastrophe.

The less salacious, more generally embraced speculation regarding Venus's sad history points the finger at Volcanism and increased solar output as the sources for greenhouse agents (NASA Study). We earthlings have our own volcanic history as a reference point. Many geologists agree that the remnants of the Siberian Traps Volcanic flows (categorized as a "large igneous province") are the smoking gun for the Permian/Triassic boundary extinction, colloquially referred to as "the great dying." Until now, the Permian extinction holds the title for climate ruin on earth, turning oceans into toxic, stagnant, murderous graveyards for Trilobites, Tabulate and Rugose corals. Even six species of insects—the great masters of industrial breeding—were wiped from evolutionary history by the rage of Permian climate warming.

Study of the deep, geological past offers generous imaginative license to scientists, and Gavin Schmidt—director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies—has stated that carbon spikes in the geological record should be scoured for biomarkers of fossil fuels. Is it possible that some large brained offshoot of Permian protomammals attained the capacity for Exxon/Mobile psychopathy? Are the Siberian Traps falsely accused of the crimes really enacted by the profiteers of a lost Permian empire?

Gavin Schmidt (“Could an Industrial Prehuman Civilization Have Existed on Earth before Ours?”) believes that intelligent life might have evolved at multiple times in geological history, only to succumb to the awful temptations of industrialization. Perhaps capitalism, consumerism and environmental destruction has run as a repeating loop—a horror show with sequels (canceled and renewed). Geologists have favored mass extinction as a reference point, a means of geological punctuation, but, until recently, extinction seemed like nothing more than a product of natural caprice. Now, we have an alternative explanation, a new story to mull over and consider. As we reflect on the sixth extinction, might our method of self destruction be more than a mere one off event? Are any of earth's past mass extinctions also rooted in the deadliest of all mortal sins—corporate greed?

No matter how hot Phoenix or El Paso get, no matter how many square miles of polar ice caps melt, no matter how many wildfires turn Canadian forests into New York City ash, climate change is, apart from the excruciatingly complex science, a story, an unfinished allegory written, perhaps, in an obscure dialect. There are many versions of climate change—the story—along a continuum between the imminent onset of human extinction espoused by Guy McPherson and The Heritage Foundation, oil industry funded pablum of drooling denial. The fate of humanity is absolutely founded on the climate story. In essence, our existence is contingent on a poetry slam, a narrative contest fumbling for the hearts and minds of the human race. Human survival, if it is to prevail, will require a ferocious explosion of narrative..

As storytelling creatures, humans have performed narrative contortions to make ourselves the beneficiaries of mass extinction. The Permian extinction gave us the treasured dinosaurs, and the KT extinction cleansed the earth for our own ascension as the apex of the mammalian empire. But The Long Dead Venusians story (whether or not it happened in the manner that Mitski sings about, or happened at all) rather stymies our self-congratulatory instincts. The Venusians fucked up big-time billions of years ago and turned their lush paradise into an irredeemable hellscape. They left not a thread of silver lining. In so far as we identify with the long dead Venusians, their relevance to us is exclusively cautionary.

UK environmental writer and activist George Monbiot often talks about the importance of storytelling as it pertains to politics and the existential threats of capitalism. Monbiot specifically extols the “restoration story”—a narrative form that describes both the nefarious forces throwing the world into disorder, and the solution that mobilizes disobedience to "restore" lost harmony.

All political stories have a vision (or nightmare scenario) of potential ruin should people fail to rise up and resist evil systems. Jonathan Edwards was a master storyteller focused obsessively on the matter of potential ruin. His virtuosity shames the tepid rhetoric of climate change. The very fire and brimstone that perhaps charred the bones of our long dead Venusians, became, for him, the narrative tool to move an entire society to tremble in the pews. Did Venus crash and burn for want of a Jonathan Edwards?

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder.

Jonathan Edwards engaged each listener personally—images of hellfire had an immediate, visceral impact. This is not the case for climate change storytelling, with rhetoric hopelessly focused on far away, slow moving events, like dysregulated ocean currents and glacial melt in Antarctica. Even the term “climate change,” utterly fails as a narrative device. As Kirkpatrick Sales notes, the phrase accurately describing the severity of our collective assailant is “global overheating.” We cannot address the issue of murderous capitalism and overconsumption without the full power of storytelling. Edwards railed at handwringing congregants who imagined themselves perched upon rotting floorboards, while below, the flames of eternity hungrily craved a bounty of sinners. Edwards was the master storyteller that is absent today.

We know that climate change is not inevitably an abstraction, because, according to Sarah Young, writing in The Independent, 19% of children in the UK have had climate change nightmares. A nightmare is unlikely to be about crop failure in Honduras, even if climate change is largely about the suffering of poor people long oppressed by colonial contingencies. The climate nightmare is about fire and flames honing in on the sweating dreamer.

Bad dreams inhabit the same personal range of fears as a Jonathan Edwards sermon. Thus, I very recently had a dream of running to the porch thermometer with my clothes trailing plumes of smoke, to see that the temperature had risen past 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The real thermometer on my porch tops out at 120, but dreams encompass a larger set of realities than a $10 hardware store device can reveal. The temperatures on earth have not reached 300 degrees since the Hadean Eon. Not even the end Permian apocalypse approached such scale. But my dreams, apparently outran the descriptive horrors of my native planet in search of Venusian geological history. Venus, and only Venus, tells us the true story of CO2 and its intentions.

The story of the long dead Venusians has what our own climate change story does not—an incontrovertible conclusion. Would human fate be altered if interplanetary visitors were in fact socialists who had surveyed the smoldering remnants of every capitalist planet in the Milky Way (and brought us the photos)? What if time traveling, alien socialists wielded the uncut documentary of Long Dead Venusians? Would we see rightwing Venusian think tanks funded by the Venusian oil industry? We suspect that Venusians rather obediently accepted dubious explanations from politicians and industry profiteers. If we imagine that Venus’s most gifted storytellers failed to inspire the passions of those who might have acted with collective resolve, would that move our own storytellers to aspire to attain the poetic force of, say, Jonathan Edwards? Edwards spoke about the agony of hellfire with absolute certainty, and yet we, with far more data, equivocate while being helplessly swept along by a Venusian reprise.

As bright and lovely as Venus has been in recent mornings, the orb reminds me that Venusians capitulated to absurd denialism. They failed to launch general strikes or to use force against psychopathic oil barons, banks, industrialist farmers and government officials. Their downfall was one of collective banality, a shared and shriveled imagination that could not conceive of a Venus devoid of profit motives, so called free markets, and the virulent addictions of consumerism and materialism.

Venus global view, © 1996 NASA

 What did the final moments of Venusian life look like? Was the planet bathed in the dull glow of smoke and fire resembling our own conflagrations in Canada and Siberia? What about floods, searing heat, draughts and the violent rage of the Venusians themselves as they acted out their climate induced frustrations upon one another?

A.M. Gittlitz took the "yes" position in The Nation's debate on whether or not alien visitors would inevitably be socialists. His answer obliquely addresses our losing battle with climate change:

J. Posadas, the leader of the Posadists, offered a political and economic defense of our future alien visitors in his 1968 “Flying Saucers” essay. For alien civilizations to travel hundreds of light years to Earth, he wrote, they would need to have an “infinitely superior” form of social organization, “without struggle and antagonisms.” Marxists call the type of society that has advanced beyond our current divisions of nation, class, race, and gender—a society in which each gives according to their ability and takes according to their needs—socialist.

I am almost certain that Gittlitz read the study referencing Pann. He must know that the capitalist impulse to chase profits over the cliff of self destruction is an existential challenge to every alien civilization. But, are we really talking about interstellar socialists or are aliens merely a rhetorical prop—like my Long Dead Venusians? We are unfortunate victims of The Fermi Paradox, and no aliens are going to instruct us about the virtues of socialism. The goalposts have moved; aliens are never anything more than thinly disguised earthlings, and interstellar travel is simply a fantasy like free markets, trickle down and Jonathan Edwards’ pyromaniacal God. We do not need to look up, like Fermi, and ask, “where are the aliens?” Instead, we should look straight ahead, at one another, and ask—“where are the socialists?”

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Micro-interview with Cécile Matthey

We’re joined by our co-editor and in-house illustrator Cécile Matthey, artist of “Out of Bounds” in TFF #66.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Out of Bounds”?

Cécile Matthey: The first illustration (above) is a wink to 80s posters, that showed impossibly kitsch beaches at sunset. I had some in my teenager room at the time! I thought it could match the atmosphere of the story, that takes place in a virtual world full of perfect spots. Perfect spots that are not entirely finished: at some point in the story, the protagonists escape through a “breach” at the bottom of a pool. This striking moment is the theme of the second illustration.

TFF: Pastels are not the most obvious choice to illustrate a VR world, and yet your illustrations are very effective. Would you like to tell us more about  representing “techno” landcapes with analogue tools?

CM: Analogue tools are very versatile. There are so many ways to use them and mix them that you can achieve all kinds of effects. It can even be a creative challenge to use a medium that looks a little unusual in the first place, like pastels.    

TFF: Do you have a lucky pen or pencil?

CM: I inherited a few brushes from my maternal grandfather, who died when I was eleven. They can't be used because they are full of dried oil-paint, but I keep them as a decoration on my desk. I have fond memories of him. He worked as an engraver but was also a talented sculptor and painter. He gave me some taste, and surely some gift, for the fine arts.

TFF: If you could acquire the ability to speak with one type of animal, which would you choose?

CM: Other than elephants… maybe cats. A few years ago, as I was walking in the street, I saw a cat sitting by a window. I tried to catch their attention, but they kept their eyes intensely fixed on something behind me, higher than me. I turned around, but I saw nothing, of course… Today I'm still wondering what it was. I would have loved to ask them!

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday 29 September 2023

Micro-interview with Colleen Anderson

This week we welcome to the press page Colleen Anderson, author of the poem “The Fungal Force: A History” in The Future Fire #66.

Art © 2023 Melkorka
TFF: What does “The Fungal Force: A History” mean to you?

Colleen Anderson: We’ve learned so much about the mycelial network that links trees and root systems, an alien not-animal lifeform that is part of our world. And of course, there is the destructive controlling fungus that uses insects like zombies to meet its needs. My fiction story, “Sins of the Father” (in On Spec #105) explores that aspect. I work in Vancouver’s DTES (Downtown East Side) and see people being destroyed and physically altered by drugs every day. There is much dehumanization that starts with traumatic abuse in childhood and continues with othering in adulthood. We may see one city or country being particularly abusive of people, but in the end, we are all susceptible to our base natures if we choose to see groups of people as not human or less than.

TFF: You use the names of different mushrooms in a very evocative way. Were these scientific names part of your inspiration for this poem?

CA: No. I chose the names that work in rhythm and potency to the content of the poem.

TFF: What are you working on next?

CA: I’m writing a book of poems on Rapunzel. As is shown, most fairy tales have dark cores. I look at how a hostage in a tower grows and changes, and what happens after the not so happily ever after. Of the fairy tales, Rapunzel may not have died like Snow White but goes through extreme trials and tribulations, giving birth to twins when exiled to the desert.


It began with the men in blue
plus a few other people in government succumbed
when each breath they drew labored with hate

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Micro-interview with Toeken

We’re joined for a quick chat by Toeken, artist of “Between the Shadow and the Soul” and cover artist in TFF #66.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Between the Shadow and the Soul”?

Toeken: First off: beautiful writing by Davian Aw. There was heaps of evocative imagery to work from. I decided to put the two images together using collage type techniques and then messing around with old Nokia cameras, compositing 72 dpi blocky photographs of fauna, soil and mannequins, painting those separately and then scanning them. As ya do. It’s fiddly fun stuff. I think the whole process becomes what the artist Russell Mills refers to as ‘serious play.’

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Toeken: As per usual, there’s a whole bunch of people out there whose work right now I find is a treat for the eyes and mind. Recently I’ve been sifting through and really enjoying stuff by Mark Smith, who does extraordinary work in ceramics, Gudrun Dorsch, Berenice Abbott, Olawale Moses, Mark Marinkovich and Sarah Jarrett.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

Toeken: Just finished work for Gavin Chappell, Gypsum Sound Tales, Shoreline of Infinity, a few spec pieces and I'm currently trying to get my head around another possible collaboration with my writer pal, Phil Emery (Android Press will hopefully be publishing the cyberpunk-themed graphic novel Razor’s Edge later this year).

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday 22 September 2023

Micro-interview with Anna Ziegelhof

We’re joined today by Anna Ziegelhof, author of “Out of Bounds” in The Future Fire #66, for a brief chat about virtual worlds, aliens and exhibition spaces.

Art © 2023 Cécile Matthey
TFF: What does “Out of Bounds” mean to you?

Anna Ziegelhof: I wrote this story after watching speed-runs of my favorite game (Portal): if you know how, you can disregard the limits of the (game-)world, by-passing the traps meant to kill you. The thought that it might be possible to move independently from the constraints of the world was inspiring to me.

TFF: Would you like to meet aliens from another world?

AZ: Yes. I’d be particularly interested in language, communication, and their perspective on human cultures.

TFF: Tell us about a piece of art that came to life for you.

AZ: There’s an incredible exhibition-space, Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany, a decommissioned gas holder from the area's industrial past. It’s a sublime, completely dark space; you get creature-feeling. They had a video installation by Bill Viola (“Five Angels for the Millennium”) there years ago: that work plus the space in which it was presented is still with me.


I watched my hand, blurred by the turquoise ocean. I imagined a vast unseen world beneath. Nothing down there would deign to pay attention to me. I was unnoticed and insignificant. I moved my hand, palm up, back toward me and said goodbye to the ocean for today. I paddled the board back to the beach. It was nice to move my muscles against the resistance of the water. It felt good to carry the weight of the board and feel the sand under my feet. An evening breeze ruffled through my wet hair. Goosebumps rose on my skin. So real.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Micro-interview with Sebastian Timpe

We're joined by Sebastian Timpe, artist of “One Day” in TFF #66, for a quick chat about illustrating, technique and problem solving.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “One Day”?

Sebastian Timpe: The first step when working with text for me is to read it. I like to read at least once purely for pleasure and just to soak in the ambiance of the story. Then again focusing on what imagery it brings to mind. Then again scanning for specific visual details the author has set out. For this story I sketched out a number of different ideas from direct scenes in the text to more abstract representations of the character’s inner feelings. In the end I kind of went with one of each.

TFF: Your first illustration for this story shows many vibrant colours, while for the second you have chosen a mostly black and white approach. How did you pair these two moments in the story with such different styles?

ST: For the first illustration (above) it is a concrete moment in the story, when our main character steps into the room towards the end and sees the woman she loves. So I went with a very realistic approach in terms of colors and setting, I wanted it to feel warm and vibrant.

For the second illustration it is a more abstract representation of the arc of the story. These two women lives who have been entangled and finally they reach out to each other. I wanted to keep with the fantasy setting choosing a door to represent the new pathway they might take together. But keeping the color pallet black and white (with the exception of the red thread) to detach the image from the strict confines of reality.

TFF: Do you have a superstition or quirk you insist on while working?

ST: Any time something doesn’t feel right in the illustration process or isn’t turning out how I want it to I take a step back and go pet my elderly cat Scruffy. She can’t tell me the solution but it always helps to get my mind off the problem and into cat petting mode instead.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday 15 September 2023

Micro-interview with Davian Aw

We welcome back Davian Aw, author of “Between the Shadow and the Soul” in TFF #66 for a brief chat about virtual worlds and escapism.

Art © 2023, Toeken
TFF: What does “Between the Shadow and the Soul” mean to you?

Davian Aw: The escapist allure of guilty pleasures that save us even as they destroy us, and how those two things can't always be separated. I think many of us—especially from marginalised communities—have secret dreams and aspirations (and favourite media) that may not always be the most aligned with our political beliefs and values, but where those may sometimes be among the few things that keep us going or bring us joy. So that was the tension I wanted to explore here, and the ways in which we disengage from reality when the world makes it unbearable for us to exist as ourselves. Separately, I started writing this story while homesick for New York City after working there a few months, and a lot of the scenes were snapshots of places that I wanted to remember.

TFF: Did you ever wish to be someone else?

DA: All the time. Part of it is that need for escapism, which faded as I grew older and things got better and I found my place in the world. But there's still that curiosity and a kind of grief that we can only ever experience such a limited part of all that this world has to offer. There are experiences and perspectives that are forever inaccessible just because of who each of us are, and I've always been sad about that. Stories are the next best thing we have to get those intimate glimpses into lives we will never live, in this world and beyond.

Personality modules spin into motion and transform Johanna into Ashley. She turns to the window and meets the sight of her beautiful face framed by sun-gilt hair. Crafted memories rush over her own until that face is no longer a stranger’s, but hers, drawing her deep into the soft embrace of Ashley’s perfect life. It’s her life, now; her memories, her body, and everything is all right.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Micro-interview with Melkorka

We're joined by Melkorka, artist of “The Fungal Force: A History” in The Future Fire #66, for a quick chat.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “The Fungal Force: A History”?

Melkorka: After studying the poem, I picked out some of the themes that resonated most with me. Having visited in Cambodia in 2003, I had a strong felt sense of the violence that took place during the Pol Pot regime so I began sourcing some images of people who had disappeared during that time and started there. I then sourced an image of police brutality and overlaid it onto the first image. Then I painted the mushrooms, contrasting work by hand with the digital imagery in the hope of illustrating the natural world taking over our one, as in the poem.

TFF: Into which animal or plant would you like to be able to morph?

Melkorka: A dolphin. They seem to have the best time!

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Melkorka: Akira Kusaka—I love the dream-like quality of his work.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday 8 September 2023

Micro-interview with Frances Koziar

This week we're joined by Frances Koziar, author of “One Day” in TFF #66, for a chat about day, night, and writing.

Art @2023 Sebastian Timpe
TFF: What does “One Day” mean to you?

Frances Koziar: For "One Day" I was thinking (a very condensed) Virginia Woolf meets high fantasy. 😋 Particularly Mrs. Dalloway, where the entire book happens over the course of one day. Representation is really important to me as a very multi-underprivileged author, and in this story I also wanted to lift up older women, because there are enough fantasy stories about 18-year-old boys saving the world to last a lifetime.

TFF: If you could shut down the power so we all just have to stare at the night, would you?

FK: Absolutely! (At least, sometimes. 😋) I think it's a collective loss how ignorant people have become about how the night sky actually looks without light pollution. I see it a lot in the writing of fantasy authors actually—they'll describe the moon as being the focus of the sky, when a partial moon is really not that remarkable when the sky is filled with a million stars and the Milky Way. They also tend to have no idea of when the moon rises and sets (it's not the same as the sun! It's out in the daytime just as much as the night).

TFF: What are you working on next?

FK: I'm always writing short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry while also working on a novel. "One Day" was my first foray into including poetry in my fiction, and I loved it so much that I decided to include some poetry in the novel I'm just finishing rewriting from scratch now—a literary high fantasy novel about trauma that I wrote ten years ago and haven't found an agent for yet. Wish me luck! ❤️


In the still calm of the palace gardens I stand, watching the sky change from navy to a pale blue streaked with gold. I am as still as only an ageing soldier well used to waiting can be, my grey hair tied tightly at the nape of my neck.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Micro-interview with Fluffgar

We welcome Fluffgar, artist of “Boxes Full of Memories” in The Future Fire #66, for another visit and short chat to celebrate the latest issue.

 TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Boxes Full of Memories”?

Fluffgar: I read the story and then let it steep/ferment in my mind. It's often best for me to go and do something unrelated for the time this takes. Get on with some other work, clean the house, play a video game. Subconscious likes to be left to do its first drafts.

TFF: Your first illustration for this story feels very intimate and truly "inhabited" by someone's personality. Did you find inspiration in an actual place?

Fluffgar: For the domestic chaos of the first illustration I need only to look up for inspiration. Creativity and messiness are often found in the same person, and in my household that is doubled. That said, the environment depicted isn't a real location.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Micro-interview with Devin Miller

We welcome Devin Miller, author of “Smells of Brine, Witching” in The Future Fire #66, for a mini-interview.

TFF: What does “Smells of Brine, Witching” mean to you?

Devin Miller: We tend to think of things that change and decay as sad, wasted things. What forests teach us is that decaying things are food, homes, an essential part of creation and regeneration. What beaches teach us is that when water wears a stone down, it does get smaller but it also gets smooth and beautiful. This is one of my favorite metaphors for writing: unwritten ideas and unfinished stories aren't wasted, they're just compost for future writing. And compost is a form of transformation, and therefore magical.

TFF: Is it the double nature of fungi that makes them such a suitable witchcraft ingredient, in your opinion?

DM: I think they're a suitable witchcraft ingredient because they are themselves witches. Saprobic fungi feed on dead organic matter, break it down and transform it, which is pretty much what a witch does stirring her cauldron.

TFF: What are you working on next?

DM: I've got lots of short fiction to revise; I've particularly been meaning to get to the one about a road trip with a sea-wife.


Quiet have I lived at the border between
woods and sea. Here where shorebirds scurry, forage,
where wrens, juncoes make busy life in tree homes,
here have I breathed salt.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Monday 28 August 2023

CFS: Hopeful SF

Photo by Ádám Berkecz on Unsplash
We invite submissions of stories (flash to novelette) or poems for a themed issue of The Future Fire. We would like to see optimistic or hopeful—or even cuddly—futures and fantasy worlds, including (but not restricted to), solarpunk, hopepunk, spoopy horror, cozy, utopian, happy-ever-after/happy-for-now, stories that tease with the better-than-now rather than warn with the (even-)worse-than-now, golden age sense of wonder, radically inclusive and accessible futures or secondary worlds.

You know the drill: use the normal guidelines at http://futurefire.net/guidelines/index.html. Add “HOPEFUL” to the email subject line to help us with sorting, but we will consider subs from the general pool for this issue, and vice versa.

This call will be open until the end of 2023 or the issue is filled through February 2024.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Micro-interview with Sean R. Robinson

We’re happy to have a chat with Sean R. Robinson, author of “Boxes Full of Memories” in The Future Fire #66, about fantastic fiction and nonfiction.

TFF: What does “Boxes Full of Memories” mean to you?

Art © 2023 Fluffgar
Sean R. Robinson: I started writing professionally when the fantasy punk second wave started, authors like Catherynne Valente, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link and others took the work that was done by folks like Terri Windling and reinvigorated the idea of using myth and legend and fairy tale to address modern life. I have always thought that this made a lot of sense, and over the years I've had the opportunity to publish stories from an ongoing series I've called ‘Laundromat Fairy Tales,’ that have looked at issues from life through the lens of fairy tales. “Boxes Full of Memories” is, maybe, a step or two from those, but what do you do when your mother was the sea witch and she dies, leaving all of her stuff behind? A family member passed away several years ago, and the family had to discuss the dispensation of every spoon and fork and frying pan. It was important to them that it was done correctly, as a final act of love. That stuck with me, and found its way into these stories.

For folks interested, one of the other ‘Laundomat Fairy Tales’ has appeared in TFF: “Spindle Talk.”

TFF: If a fantastic creature asked you to tell them a story, which one would you pick?

SRR: My grandfather used to re-tell me the Three Little Pigs as a bedtime story. But I got to pick what the houses were made out of, and there sometimes featured a guest appearance by SuperPig who came and saved the day. I'd go with that, because why mess with the classics?

TFF: What are you working on next?

SRR: I'm in the death throes of a doctorate program, so most of my gray matter is headed to that. I'm currently picking at a Narnia / Those Who Walk Away from Omelas novel that is still in the planning stages, but it's been fun so far. I have a fantasy story (that's maybe a reimagining of Theseus and the Minotaur if you squint and look at it wideways) coming out from Kaleidotrope at the end of the year.


A mattress on the floor under the window, a beaded screen hiding the bathroom. The hotplate I’d gotten her for Christmas, a microwave that looked like it was about to burst into flames. A few plants that seemed to be doing well, even after weeks without water.

And boxes.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Micro-interview with Lisa Timpf

We welcome Lisa Timpf, author of the poem “Mycelial” in The Future Fire #66, to talk to us about utopia, music and poetry.

TFF: What does “Mycelial” mean to you?

Lisa Timpf: Underlying “Mycelial” is the thought that Utopia may lie, not in space, but right here on Earth, if we can shrug off the pressure to surround ourselves with more and more things, and get back to taking satisfaction in what is available to us through nature and the outdoors. Mushrooms are a good metaphor for connectivity because of their apparent ability to communicate with one another, and the symbiotic nature some have with trees.

TFF: Does music play a role in your work? Do you have a writing soundtrack?

LT: I don't have a writing soundtrack, but I usually have music playing in the background when I write. It sets a mood and helps me concentrate, so much so that it often takes me a moment to remember where I am when I get interrupted.

TFF: What are you working on next?

LT: Right now I'm working on some ideas for collections (poetry, short stories) and possibly a non-fiction book using some of the research from my never-completed Master's thesis on women's field hockey in Canada's Maritime provinces.


At first, it seemed absurd,
mycelial motherboards in our computers.
But the notion grew on us, the way
shitakes take to oak.

Reminder: you can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Sunday 30 July 2023

New Issue 2023.66

“This unrestrained exploitation of the common goods of nature does not generate wealth, but wears down and impoverishes the planet. It is time to fight for the good of humanity and for a new story.”

—Sônia Guajajara

[ Issue 2023.66; Cover art © 2023 Toeken ]Issue 2023.66

Short stories


Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Micro-interview with Carina Bissett

Carina Bissett, author of “Between Scylla and Charybdis” in The Future Fire #65, joins us for a quick chat about monsters, her story and other current work.

TFF: What does “Between Scylla and Charybdis” mean to you?

Carina Bissett: I’ve always been familiar with the myth of Scylla and Charybdis, but it wasn’t until I read “Dogs Below the Waist” in Jess Zimmerman’s Women and Other Monsters that I really gave Scylla’s origin story much thought. Among other things, Zimmerman explores the cultural obsession with female bodies. Circe poisons Scylla’s pool out of jealousy—never mind that Scylla has no interest in the man who is Circe’s object of desire. (On a side note, the trope of women taking out other women is one that I despise. The patriarchy loves to promote the idea of women being enemies, so I decided to change the end of the story and let Scylla and Charybdis plot world domination together as allies instead keeping them in place as plot devices for the stories of heroic men and jealous women.)

Scylla—who fled an overly aggressive male and was seeking the safety of her home—finds herself ambushed and transformed into a monster. She cannot escape her monstrosity, the vicious dogs attached like a girdle around her waist, and so she hides in cliffside caves where she later witnesses Charybdis’ transformation. And what did Charybdis do to deserve being chained to the ocean floor by Zeus? She was hungry and dared to satisfy her appetites. So, you have a woman who was condemned because her beauty incited lust and another who dared to satisfy her hunger. Of course, they were punished. Society demands it, something I’m all too familiar with.

For most of my 20s and 30s, I lived in that liminal space between Scylla and Charybdis. At any moment, I could have shared their fates. I lived in constant fear of veering off course. I tried to be pretty and thin and quiet and complacent. Don’t rock the boat. That story. I’m older now, and with age I’ve started to question the beliefs I lived with for most of my life. Why did I spend so much energy trying to win a gamed system? Why did I believe my only power was in submitting to the male gaze? Why are women still refused the right to revel in their own monstrosity? These days, I find myself stepping away from cultural expectations on a regular basis; I notice other women are doing this as well. And I can’t help but wonder what power we might wield once we join together against those who have worked so hard to keep chained. I hope to find out.

TFF: What are you working on next?

CM: I’m currently revising a novel about monstrous women set in 1917 Chicago. This work-in-progress is an exploration of female relationships and the dynamics of power in a patriarchal world, which seems more important now than ever. In addition to work on the novel, I’m also preparing for the release of my debut short story collection Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations, which is scheduled to come out early next year with Trepidatio Publishing. Many of the stories in this collection also delve into the territory of monstrous characters and the choices they make. It is a theme I continue to explore in an effort to deconstruct gendered expectations and societal norms. I believe the traditional feminine powers of youth and beauty only go so far. I am more interested in the power women have when they lift each other up and work together to create change. Everything I write tends to be an extension of that.


He came to me at the seashore
an avowal of love on his lips
pursed to lick salt from skin revealed,
ocean spray frothing, white
foam furrowing, folded
around his piscine tail.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Micro-interview with Cécile Matthey

We’re delighted to receive a visit from our old friend Cécile Matthey, illustrator of “Live off the Land” in The Future Fire #65.

Illustration © 2023 Cécile Matthey

 TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Live off the Land”?

Cécile Matthey: The main theme of this evocative story is a forest. It is a kind of maze in which visitors get lost and trapped. So I drew a wood of beech trees, with rows of bare straight trunks which seemed to convey the right atmosphere. But I couldn’t resist showing the exit, as discrete lines of light in the background. In the second illustration, I wanted to show the protagonist. Their looks remain quite mysterious, but we are told their eyes are “too green” from the long stay in the forest—a colour which happens to be quite elegant!/p>

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

CM: I recently saw an exhibition featuring works by a Swiss woman artist, Marion Morel-Pache. She glues natural stones with pieces of wood or metal together to make sculptures she calls “pierr’sonnages” (stone characters). Some of them are incredibly expressive and touching. Her website: www.pierr-sonnages.ch.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

CM: I’ve just finished painting a copy of a Roman lararium for an archaeology festival (see photo). These domestic altars were brightly painted and richly adorned with symbolic elements like crested snakes, eggs, flowers, garlands, etc. Quite a long task, but it was fun to do.

Lararium © 2023 Cécile Matthey

 Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Micro-interview with Samuel Lowd Goldstein

We invited over Samuel Lowd Goldstein, author of “Interstellar Wallflower” in The Future Fire #65 to talk about space travel and human exceptionalism.

TFF: What does “Interstellar Wallflower” mean to you?

Samuel Lowd Goldstein: There is a lot written about first contact, and yet we live in a world populated with beings with whom we have (at best) rudimentary communication. And while we like to make hierarchies of life-forms and their importance, sentient visitors might well make different assessments.

TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?

SLG: Absolutely! My father worked for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and I remember watching the landing of Viking in the 70s. It was very evocative seeing the surface of Mars and finding it simultaneously familiar and strange. This has been amplified by subsequent landers and probes. I can spend hours looking at the pictures!

The logistics of visiting another planet are another question.

TFF: Do you see a parallel between your poem and the story “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” in this issue?

SLG: Yes, and I enjoyed that story very much. It seems to me that "The Pool Noodle Alien Posse" plays with some of the same ideas that "Interstellar Wallflower" does. In "Interstellar Wallflower," I was exploring the idea that extraterrestrials might not share our opinion that we're the most important beings on our planet. We project upon them our perceptions, and find ourselves surprised when they have their own understanding—worse yet, it does not match our own.

"Pool Noodle" also explores (among other things) our expectations of and projections upon extraterrestrial life in sort of the flip-side to that: what if being technologically advanced in some ways doesn't translate to having all the answers? We expect space-faring beings to come and solve all our problems for us, only to find they're not that different from us. They take one look at our mess, and decide it's not for them.


First contact didn’t go well
it went like a junior-high dance.
After emerging from their crystal ships
they didn’t even look in our direction
but went to hang out with the cephalopods
and cetaceans.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Micro-interview with Goran Lowie

We welcome Goran Lowie, author of “All I Ever Wanted to Be” in The Future Fire #65.

TFF: What does “All I Ever Wanted to Be” mean to you?

Goran Lowie: It ended up expressing a few different things that were floating around in my head. It started with escape—a vivid image in my mind of some disillusioned adult who reminisces about being a child, looking at the sea, and longing to be a mermaid. This childish (in a good way) sense of wonder also comes back in other ways (turkey vultures) and is one of the key things I wanted express. However, the harsh reality of such a life was an inevitable inclusion—that disillusionment even becoming a part of this childhood dream, realizing the current world would probably not be a very good place for mermaids to live in. In a sense, it’s a poem I wrote to try and escape reality, but I ended up being unable to avoid it. It’s a darker piece than I intended.

There’s some gender stuff in there, too. While I have never doubted my gender enough to identify as anything but my gender assigned at birth, it has been on my mind sometimes. I don’t feel remotely female at all, but imagining myself as a mermaid is still fun. That’s what I love so much about speculative fiction—it allows you to see the world in other ways, yes, but it also allows you to see yourself in different ways.

TFF: Do you remember the first time you saw the sea? What is the most terrifying thing about it?

GL: As a child, I was deathly afraid of the sea, or any body of water, period. It took me an absurdly above-average time to learn how to swim and I’m still not great at it. I remember when we learned to dive in the kiddy pool and I was always lambasted because I immediately turned around mid-jump in an attempt to grab the walls in desperation. I mostly got over this fear in pools, but it remains in parts.

I have one “core memory” of me, at a very young age, being in the big pool with my much older sister when I slipped from the little floaty thing and went to the bottom. My sister saved me, probably saving my life. I have no idea if this even happened as it did in my memory. I was never able to ask her about it as an adult—she passed away a few years ago at a very young age. She came to mind while writing this poem, too. In a way, it also brings me to that disillusionment: a joyful life (full of joie de vivre) abruptly ended. The ocean, and by extension the world, is no place for a little girl.

TFF: What are you working on next?

GL: I am always working on many different things at once. My poems are often one-and-done. I have a few poems as a work in progress, but usually I just write them as they come to me. I still have some immense Stockholm syndrome with all of my poems getting accepted by magazines, but I’m starting to believe this is something I might be continuing, when the mind-numbing stress and exhaustion from work allows me to. I’m working on more poems, and even have a little idea in mind of themed poems which could potentially become a chapbook, given enough time and poems.

I’ve also recently started a Speculative Poetry Roundup, spotlighting some of my favorite speculative poems being published right now. I have always been a voracious reader, much more so than a creator, and a world opened for me when I discovered speculative poetry. There is so much of it getting published, such great quality and quantity, but it goes unread. I’m hoping to continue this roundup in the future and continue to bring attention to these amazing poems.


I burst into tears
reminded of when all
I ever wanted to be
was a mermaid
among octopi

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.